Ok, let’s discuss about Underdog’s latest album, “Trans Global Amnesia”. These guys from Boston are flying us on a journey through their music. Picture this: So you start with the song ‘You Told Me’ which is full of sheer energy and rocking tunes. It’s got those stabs and the punk vibe – it gets at you right from the start.
They fire on you with “Helsinki Airport Blues” – the catchy vocals, sharp guitar solos – it would be impossible not to tap your feet. “Summer Song” mellows things out a little bit with the melodic riffs and jazzy percussion that just sound great.
Now, the fun begins – with “New World Raga.” The incorporate of Eastern elements and gets good. It is like a rock went around the world. “Rocket Baby” returns that feel-good rock ‘n’ roll and “Louie & Marie” slows down the genre but that funky beat is still there to stay.
In a chat with Scott, he spills the beans on why they’re called Underdog (hint: Love for the underdogs and a dog named Suzy. They describe what influences their music – everyday things and also random happenings that trigger the imagination. Scott also relates to life outside the studio – art, vintage cars and his love of travel.
They do not candycoat the many hurdles that are associated with the music business. Airplay and exposure? Yeah, it’s a really hard one to crack with so much competition and the artists hustling.
In the future, Underdog is completely wrapped up in their latest work, “Wonderland,” and they can’t wait to take on a live stage show that should be set somewhere around Boston. Collaborations? Perhaps in the future, but at this point that just need to record their backlog of songs.
Scott sends a big thank you to all his followers. But without you guys, they are only making the sounds.
Listen to Trans Global Amnesia below
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What is your stage name
Underdog is the band name. We don’t have individual stage names, we use our own names, Scott and Bryn. Like any group of close friends we have nicknames, but those are generally just kicked around between us and other close friends. Mine is “Dog”, Bryn’s is “A Major Rock Dude”, hence the AMRD in the studio name and his music publishing company. These go way back to the early 80s, when we first met.
Is there a story behind your stage name?
At the time we started getting together, I was sitting in as a rehearsal guitarist for my wife’s band The Underachievers, who were getting ready to do a reunion show after 30 years, and a couple of the members who now live in Vancouver were only coming into town a few days before the show, so I was helping them out with practices.
I thought it would be cool to somehow incorporate the “Under”part into our name, and “Dog” being my nickname, Underdog obviously presented itself. I figured it was nice and short, easy to remember, and as they say, everyone loves an underdog. Also, we had just gotten Suzie, a Black Lab mix puppy from a local shelter, and as black dogs are often overlooked or the last to be adopted, I felt like she was also an underdog. Suzie is the band mascot, and our avatar image on social media and other sites.
The fact that we are also a bit on the older side, and not the most likely of “pop stars”, having to hold down days jobs, and doing all the recording on our own at home, seemed to echo the idea nicely. It feels like we’ve got a lot going against us, without much going for us.
Beyond that, I also remember seeing a German documentary around the same time about dogs that were being raised by prisoners called “Underdogs”, which added another relay ref meaning. Obviously there’s the old Underdog cartoon, which I loved growing up, but really was not on my mind when I came up with the name. Still with names like Sweet Polly Purebred for a heroine, and Simon Bar Sinister as a villain, you can’t go wrong.
Where do you find inspiration?
From anywhere really, but usually from either what’s going on in our lives, or things that are happening around us, stuff we see or read can also inspire songs. It’s a pretty wide variety of things, but usually I try to find some way of making it personal, so that I actually have an access point into the song, but at the same time making it accessible to anyone who’s listening to it.
What was the role of music in the early years of your life?
I started playing piano around the the age of five, and studied with my Aunt Dolly for a number of years. When I was around nine years old I switched over to trumpet, which I continued with into college. I first picked up the guitar in my early teens, and there was a steady migration towards that over the years. I really started more as a bass player in my first couple of bands and moved over to guitar and singing from there.
Bryn also started music at a fairly young age, both drums and guitar, and has continued to develop his guitar skills over the time I have known him. When we first met he was playing drums, but was interested is starting a band where he was playing guitar and singing his own songs, which is how the Hackmasters came about in the mid-80s.
Are you from a musical or artistic family?
Not really, although both my parents played piano, and later on my mom studied flute and and my dad recorder. I have an older brother and sister that don’t play anything, but my younger brother, Stuart, was also a guitar player. He had a folk music career around Boston for a number of years, but sadly he passed away in early 2020 from a long term illness. Although my parents always encouraged art and music, they always said that they were tough fields to make a living in, so of course I went to college first for music and then later on for art. Hahaha!
Bryn’s older sister was an accomplished artist, who lived in Venice, Italy. She did a lot of drawing and printmaking, I believe, but sadly she also passed away a number of years ago. I remember Bryn brought her to visit my painting studio in Dorchester in the late 90s or early 00s and we had a nice time talking about our work. I don’t think either of his parents played music or made art, that I know of.
Who inspired you to be a part of the music industry?
I suppose for me the simple answer is the Beatles, I grew up with them in the 60s and it sure looked like a good time. But there are plenty of other artists that have helped to keep the dream alive over the years. I guess music has always been a part of my life, so it seems like a very natural, and comfortable place for me to be.
How did you learn to sing/write/to play?
Although I took lessons for piano and trumpet, I’m basically a self taught guitarist. I did take some music theory classes in high school and at college, but that was all focused on Classical music and four part hamony, so the songs that I’ve written over the years just pretty much come from within. My singing is not my strength, but I was able to face that shortcoming a bit easier in the 90s when a less polished vocal style became more acceptable in mainstream music.
Bryn has studied both drums and guitar, and still is a student of Sam Davis, a very talented musician in the Boston area, that has a career that goes way back. So he is definitely the more accomplished guitarist, and therefore takes most of the leads. He also has a much wider variety of influences, that all blend together to make his own unique style.
What was the first concert that you ever went to and who did you see perform?
Wow, not sure I can even remember exactly, but most likely it was a show at the Rat in Boston, so probably some local bands. I do remember getting in there underage to see the Runaways around 1977, but it was not the first show I went to.
How could you describe your music?
It’s hard for me to have a perspective on it, as it’s our stuff. But I would say garage, punk, hard rock, without being metal, although there are touches of that occasionally. I would not call it pop, especially by today’s standards, but I think it’s fairly melodic, and hopefully the tunes are catchy to the listener’s ear. It’s definitely guitar driven, with the vocals being just another instrument in the band, rather than the focus. We like using the term Supersonic because it sort of defies any sort of specific categorization. I’m sure a lot of people find it unpleasant and abrasive.
Describe your creative process.
Sometimes it starts with a single line, or thought that becomes the foundation of the song. I usually come up with the music first and flush out the lyrics afterwards, but occasionally the words spill out first. When that happens it’s usually a very quick thing, and the melody line is right there in my head at the moment.
I’ve had ideas come to me in dreams or right on the edge of sleep too, and I try to keep paper and pen nearby to be able to get it down before it’s lost. I keep a pocket recorder handy also, so I can capture words or ideas quickly as they come up, especially if I’m practicing guitar and something magical happens, it’s nice to be able to capture it in its pure essence.
What is your main inspiration?
My bride, Priscilla and my dog, Suzie for the most part. Songs like “Suzie My Dear” and “Everything I Can” off the our first album, “Ether Dome,” were inspired by both of them, as are many of the songs I’ve written. But sometimes it’s a random thing I’ve come across. Both “Munchausen By Proxy” and “Mallus Maleficarum” are good examples of that sort of thing happening.
What musician do you admire most and why?
Too many to list here, but one is Louise Post. She has really shown me that an independent artist can have a presence, especially if they are willing to persevere. In the last year or so she has released three vastly different records, that are also a complete departure from her work with Veruca Salt.
Paul McCartney is also someone who I think embodies what an artist is. As much as I love the Beatles, and some of his solo work is amazing, the fact that he was into the avant-garde music and art scene ahead of the others, and has a successful painting career, as well, says a lot about him being a well rounded artist. I’ve always felt that if you are involved in the arts in any way you probably do more than one of them well. It’s just the nature of creative beings.
Did your style evolve since the beginning of your career?
Absolutely. I think that’s the case for any creative person. The alternative is just stagnation, which would probably lead to boredom and then finding something else to do. Not to say that there aren’t artists out there who have made a living off of doing the same thing over and over again, but I don’t think I would find that very rewarding.
I know that anytime I encounter new music, or a different style that attracts me to it, I can see traces of it in the new songs I write. Sometimes consciously and other times completely unconsciously.
Who do you see as your main competitor?
Everyone and no one, hahaha!
Seriously though, there are so many artists out there vying for exposure, and your ear, that it can be overwhelming, and hard to feel like you’re making any sort of impression or impact.
I remember thinking in the 90s when my band fin-de-siècle was first coming onto the Boston music scene how much different it was from the 80s when I was in World of Distortion. There was more of a sense of comaradrie among the bands rather than a competitive vibe. I think that has carried on till now. There are so many talented bands here in Boston, but I feel like we are off doing our own thing, so there isn’t a Beatles vs. Stones things going on either.
What are your interests outside of music?
Spending time with my girl and my dog. I also enjoy oil painting, photography and love movies and reading a good book. I’ve always loved vintage cars from the 50s, 60s and early 70s too. Traveling is another thing I really enjoy, but it’s an expensive hobby for sure. Trying to find some time for meditation in recent years has also been very helpful and relaxing.
I know that Bryn shares an interest in cars and travel, and he loves animals too. A lot of what he does revolves around music, including playing drums in a friend’s band that does children’s music. I’ve been to some of their shows, and when a mosh pit of 5-10 year olds gets going it’s not much different from a lot of clubs I’ve been in. The lines between child and adult entertainment really start to blur at moment like that.
If it wasn’t a music career, what would you be doing?
Hopefully some sort of artistic pursuit. I work as a graphic designer, but would love to be in my painting studio as a full time thing, or finding some way of traveling more, perhaps as a photographer.
What is the biggest problem you have encountered in the journey of music?
Trying to get airplay and high level exposure. Again, I think this is just a by product of there being so many artists out there now trying to get their voices heard. The fact that anyone can promote themselves has multiplied the amount of people out there doing it.
If you could change one thing in the music industry, what would it be?
Creating more opportunities for up and coming acts. As someone once said,” The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” I don’t think much has changed much since then, and probably even gotten worse in some ways.
Why did you choose this as the title of this project?
A friend of mine had a sister that woke up in a hotel room in Maine on a business trip and had no idea where she was, or why she was there. When she was checked out at a local hospital they told her she had “Transient Global Amnesia”, which like any good game of telephone morphed into Trans Global Amnesia by the time I heard about it. I thought it sounded too cool to pass up, and even told my friend I was going to use it for an album title.
What are your plans for the coming months?
Working on our next album, “Wonderland” is a top priority at the moment. Also looking to get some live shows booked, but the club scene in Boston isn’t thriving the way it used to, so those opportunities are harder to come by these days.
Do you have any artistic collaboration plans?
Not at the moment, We get a lot of offers from people who want to collaborate, but I feel that usually it’s a singer looking for an established group to work with, or wanting to dose sort of re-mix, which is not our thing really.. We have so many songs backlogged at the moment that we are really trying to focus on getting them all recorded, especially with new ones coming along all the time.
What message would you like to give to your fans?
A very big thank you for their continued support over the years, and let them know that them being there for us means the world to us. Realistically, without them we are nothing.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Mister Styx, and we hope to speak with you again in the future